Who is Don Draper? That’s the eternal question on Mad Men, but could the answer be as simple as “Zou Bisou Bisou”? As Don’s sultry new French-Canadian bride, Megan, Jessica Paré has been knocking everybody’s socks off all season. In the premiere episode alone, she throws Don a surprise birthday party with a French-pop serenade, right before the most erotic rug-cleaning in TV history. “She’s a character of light in a landscape of really dark people,” Paré says. “Everybody in the ad world is so sarcastic and sardonic. That makes her the weird one.” But she has one thing in common with the other ladies in Don’s life: “A little bit of a naughty sexual habit.”
So who is Jessica Paré? Like Megan, the 29-year-old is a Montreal native. In the classic Mad Men casting style, she’s an actress who’s been working for years without ever getting a big break. She has appeared in movies from the lesbian-schoolgirl indie cult fave Lost and Delirious to Hot Tub Time Machine to the punk-rock vampire comedy Suck. Now her job requires her to make out with Jon Hamm. “Hard work, right?” Paré says. “It’s a slog, I tell ya.”
Mad Men fans were stunned last season when Don impulsively proposed to Megan following a trip to Disneyland. So was Paré: Creator Matthew Weiner keeps his stories secret, even from the cast. She assumed Megan was just one of Don’s flings. “I didn’t know anything until the girl from props came by and said, ‘I need to measure your ring finger.’ We just kind of stared at each other. And her eyes implored, ‘Please don’t ask me. I can’t say anything.'”
Now, she says, “I drive past the Mad Men billboard every day and I can’t believe I’m on that show. It’s a really fun set, in large part because of Jon, because he’s so funny and generous as an actor and a person. When our characters got married, I don’t know how shocked he was. But hopefully he wasn’t too bummed out.”
Megan has turned Mad Men on its head: Who ever expected to see Don Draper in love to the point where he’s lecturing Pete Campbell on fidelity? “The big shock is not so much that they’re married, but that they’re happy,” Paré says. “Megan doesn’t see him as intimidating. She sees him as this sexy, warm, open guy. And he is!” She laughs. “For now, anyway.”
Meanwhile, Paré’s rendition of “Zou Bisou Bisou” is becoming the stuff of legend. Her cover of the song was Number One on Billboard‘s World Digital chart. Paré says, “I thought, ‘I should get a band together!’ ” Her own taste in music is much less cute. “I’m a late-Sixties, early-Seventies pre-punk New York person. Television, the New York Dolls. And Iggy Pop – who’s a huge fan of Mad Men.”
This story is from the Big Issue of Rolling Stone.